Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's Green Acres at My House

The wonderful thing about this century is that if you live in the Western world, you can pretty much create your own reality and find other people who are willing to share it with you (or enable your insanity, depending on how you look at it). For instance, by boyfriend seems to be oblivious to the fact that he's in love with a rural housewife from 1870. He doesn't seem to find it odd that I took up canning two summers ago, and now turn out preserves that could win a prize at a county fair. My crocheting mufflers and starting on socks doesn't faze him. I told him that I started spinning- he thinks it's cute. I'm the only woman he knows outside of a religious congregation who wears skirts down to her ankles, often with granny boots. He admires the cross-stitch sampler I made for my grandmother, which now hangs on the bathroom door, and he believes my interests in corsetry, steampunk, and recreating 19th century textiles to be benign.

Maybe it's because he used to be an historical reenactor. Maybe it's because he plays bagpipes. Or maybe he so busy enjoying the woolens and food that come out of my apartment that he hasn't noticed my desire to miniaturize sheep and goats so that I can milk them and keep them for their hair while sequestering them in a desktop pen. Considering that I've never lived on a farm, have no desire to move out of the city, and dress pretty much like a Corp Goth, there is something distinctly weird about this- both his lack of concern and my growing obsession with all things pre-20th century. I suppose he'll stop me if I join a quilting bee and try to move a cow into the apartment so we can have raw milk, but maybe not. I wonder- are there others who are suffering through an extended phase of Greenacres-itis?

Crochet Love: The Joy of Handspinning

I suffer, unofficially at least, from OCD. Although I've never been diagnosed, there's something downright peculiar about how I will latch onto an idea or project and not be able to let it go until I thoroughly understand it. So, this being true, I can't blame Camanomade from Ravelry for my yarn obsession- it was already there. But I can say that her talking about spinning was like offering a baby a lit firecracker.

A couple of weeks ago, even though it was the middle of the night for me and blistering cold, I went over to one of my favorite yarn shops and bought a top-whorl spindle and some roving. Did I know how to use one? No. Did I have an instructor nearby? No. Do I live in the country, and wear gingham? No, not unless gingham comes in black on black. But I didn't let my obvious lack of not knowing the fuck what I was doing stop me. Why? Because I'm OCD, I'd been obsessing for a week, and I have access to the interwebs- and this site.

I don't know who these people are. All I know is that the writing on the site was so calm and easy-going that I felt reassured. After reading the instructions and looking at the pictures, I managed to spin some honest-to-goodness yarn that looked good, and I did it without dropping my spindle even once. This is of course proof that the site owners are Tools and Minions of Satan, because now I'm ready to spin anything- I may even kidnap my neighbors' dog, comb him, and spin his hair before the weekend is out. Who knows? I may shave my boyfriend's head and use his hair, too. Or my own. Anything could happen. If you see me with a pair of clippers and a fiendish gleam in my eye, just cover your head and blame The Joy of Handspinning website.

Porky Goodness, or the Pleasures of Dining Alone

I work from 12 midnight until 8am five days a week. I'm lucky- I live in Manhattan and a car from the Firm comes to pick me up each night and whoosh me off to work. Lunch time is at about 3am, when I open my beloved Nissan wide-mouth or one of my bento boxes and set up lunch. But by 8am, I'm kind of hungry, and it's dinnertime at Casa Carpenoctem.

Working at night has made food more important to me than at any other time in my life, save one (we'll get to that at a later date). It's what makes my nights bearable, and I often plan my meals on a weekly basis, while conforming my desires to the vagaries of the local Greenmarket.

There are times though when my 'breakfast' becomes even more important to me than my lunches. Usually when I come home from work I down some cereal and a glass of juice- caffeine ins a no-no, since I'm in bed by 2pm if possible. But this morning (last night to you) I kept thinking of a sausages that were in my fridge.

Understand this- I am not the world's biggest fan of red meat. I only eat hamburgers if they come from really good joints, and only when there's nothing else to eat on the menu or I'm suffering from a heme-induced craving. I actually have to feel anemic before beef looks good, and the only reason I don't use iron supplements is that I've found they don't make me feel healthy the way red meat does.

Lamb I like. I especially like lamb stew- once a year. I could care less if PETA hates me; I like veal, but I haven't had any in years. But pork and I have a love/hate thing that goes back to childhood. I may be one of the few people in the US who genuinely hates pork roast without having vegetarianism or religion as a reason. The thought of chitlins and hogmaws is enough to make me turn green. I turn up my nose at pork chops, stuffed or otherwise. I have scrapple in my freezer, mostly out of nostalgia. For the most part, I would rather eat ground glass than sausages. The only parts of the pig that I like are bacon (cut thick, smoked, and cooked until still somewhat limp), ham (only if my mother or I make it), and whatever on earth cuts are used in pulled pork sandwiches, roast pork buns and pork fried rice, at which point I become a fiend, but only temporarily.

Part of my dislike comes from having grown up in a mostly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood- I just don't dig the pig. And part of it comes from a horrifying childhood incident in which I found out that people cook pig feet not for the meat, but to eat all of the the fat, too. While I don't mind a ham hock in my greens, I only use it for seasoning. I just don't see it as food.

But last weekend my boyfriend was going to come into town. The BF is pure Celt. He is mostly Scots, with a lot of Irish mixed in, and he spent a few years in England as a kid. This is a man who loves his pig with a passion, and in his honor I went to Myers of Keswick and bought pork sausages.

Now Myers is a British-style grocery in the West Village, which is like saying roast goose is a nice piece of poultry. The family who own the shop are from the Motherland, and the owner's father was a butcher who came to New York to visit his son and started making sausages out of homesickness. While a lot of British food looks like a dog's dinner to my American eyes, there's one place where the Brits excel and that is with the humble sausage. The shop sells chipolatas (the much more tasty equivalent to the American breakfast sausage), Cumberland sausages (think mild Italian sausage, but more delicate), and pork and leek sausages that might possibly convert a vegetarian into an omnivore. I picked up a few of each and brought them home, only intending to eat one or two and feeding him the rest.

When I got home, the phone rang. The BF, who has been moving things in for a while now, had just gotten some great news- he had a job interview with the US government and another four in PA, and had to prep. He apologized profusely,and I was stuck with sausages that I don't eat.

I thought of freezing them, but sausages like this (some of which had literally been made while I was in the shop) were too fresh to ruin by freezing. I decided to make fried eggs and pork and leek sausages, with toast on the side. That was a mistake- I hoovered them.

This morning I kept thinking about the chipolatas, which are pink and delicate in their natural state. There were four of them- big deal. I cooked them this morning, again with two farm fresh fried eggs and toast. American sausages tend to shrivel when you cook them, but not these honeys. They just browned and got crispy on the outside, and were as fat as a female wrestler's fingers. I made tea and sat down to an almost proper English breakfast (all that was lacking was the broiled tomato)- and gobbled the whole thing down in about 6 minutes.

I tried to be genteel about the whole thing. I really did. I prepped my teapot and even covered it with The World's Ugliest Tea Cozy. I set the table and sat in a chair instead of eating over the sink. I sliced a photogenic slice of lemon and floated it in my Lapsang Souchong, and put music on in the background. But these sausages just kept calling to me- maybe it was because of the butter I had used to grease the pan, or the delicious eggs over easy that were snuggled up against them like sleeping babies in crocheted afghans. It was all I could do to actually use a knife and fork instead of sticking my face in the plate and licking it clean. I sat there, philosophically munching, and tried to tell myself how intelligent the average pig is compared to one of my students, and realized that most of my students would lose the contest. I mused on how slaughterhouses are evil places, even though I know Myers uses pigs that are raised on small farms. I thought about how I was probably going to go to Hell, and how my vegan acquaintances and old Orthodox neighbors would stand on the edge and laugh at me, as my soul fried like a piece of bacon in a pan at high heat.

And then I put another piece of sausage in my mouth and decided that I could hardly wait until Friday morning to fry up the Cumberlands.

Sometimes, happiness is mopping up sausage grease and egg yolk, and being secretly glad that your boyfriend is in another state where he can't see you stuff yourself like a barbarian at a Roman feast.

Crochet love: Thank you, Adriann!

I received a wonderful note on Ravelry the other day from a woman named Adriann. It seems she's a crocheter, and so far I'm the only New York-based crocheter she's seen on Ravelry. She offered me her extra copy of the 2008 Crochet-a-Day calendar if I was willing to pick it up from her job, which just happens to be near my apartment.

I've really been wanting the calendar, so I said yes. This morning I went and picked it up from her, and left while she clocked in.

Sometimes the universe is a wonderful place.

What the heck is a 'widdershins?'

'Widdershins' means counter-clockwise or moving towards the left in a circle, with attendant meanings of 'unlucky.' It's a movement in the opposite direction of the sun. When I finally put items on my Etsy shop, they will be listed under 'Widdershins Crochet'.

Some of you might be familiar with the term through neo-paganism and wicca, but I'm a follower of neither. I am, however, left-handed, or sinister. In Latin, the word for left is 'sinister', which is where we get the term '(meaning left, unlucky or evil). I thought 'Sinister Crochet' had implications I didn't want to give, as did 'Ham-handed Crochet' (another term sometimes used to mean left, or clumsy). However, as a queer liberal left-handed person of color who crochets and who likes Middle English, I thought 'Widdershins Crochet' was the perfect name for my blog.

Crochet Love: Knitty City

Ah, Knitty City. How I love you. Your yarns are beautiful and well-selected, you welcome crocheters, you hold crochet classes, and you are a stone's throw from both Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History. Your shop is cramped, but in an Aladdin's Cave kind of way, and your lighting is bright enough for people to see the real color of the yarns and threads you sell. You even have Brittany hooks, and you are willing to order anything a crocheter might desire. It's a good thing you don't have a cafe, or I would move in and sleep on the floor. Still, there are plenty of restaurants nearby where I can ply my hook in solitary splendor and rapture. Damn you, Knitty City- you've captured my heart.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New York Museum of the Week : LES Tenement Museum

New York City is known for its fine major museums, but many people don't realize how many small ones we have. I'll try to give people a highlight of what this fine city has to offer.

New York is home to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the only museum in the world that explores what tenement life was like a century ago. Most people in the US had relatives who at some point lived in a tenement, very often under horrendous conditions. The building for this museum was an actual tenement that was sealed and abandoned in the late 1930s and not reopened until a little over 10 years ago. The curators searched for and found city records listing the various tenants during the period that the tenement was in use, and built the museum around the life stories of some of them. what I like is how multicultural this museum is, and how the curators and docents relate the past to what is happening to the poor living in tenements now. If you visit New York and go to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, you might want to complete your heritage trip by going to this museum, and then eating at the wonderful Katz's Delicatessen that is located nearby.

Working and Dreaming

I just got in from my second job today. We'll call it The School. It's a university teaching job somewhere in New Jersey, where I sling cultural anthropology the way short order cooks sling hash. Today was a good day- I slept in the School library's faculty study room for a few hours before class, and looked at a couple of books on American textiles. Now I'll sleep for four hours and go into the Job, which is a major law firm where I do proofreading on the night shift. This is my life every Tuesday and Thursday until May.

I'm hoping I'll have time to crochet tonight while at work because I'm trying to finish up a large doily that will act as a placemat on my desk. The pattern is this one. I'm making with with a green bamboo yarn, which is very soft and nice. Thinking about crochet is one of the few things that keeps me sane. My dreams seem to be filled with wool.


I'm now a blogger! Most of my blog will be about crochet, cooking, living in New York City, and what it's like to work on the night shift while holding down a day job.